• Sudeep Tumma

Six Sophomores Who Helped Their Draft Stock By Returning

Freshmen typically grab all the headlines, but patience has helped these guys.

In the one-and-done era, the appeal of darting to the big leagues after just one year is so appealing for many, even if they struggle as freshmen. But every year, we see a crop of sophomores who step their game up, increase their draft stock and in turn, their NBA production. We’re talking about guys such as PJ Washington, Donovan Mitchell and Ja Morant.

Here’s who might fit that category in the 2020 NBA draft.

Guys Who Take a Massive Leap

Johnny Davis: Wisconsin, Guard

Davis has established himself as a bonafide star for the Badgers. He’s upped his scoring average from 7.0 to 21.7 as a sophomore. He’s so adept at scoring off the bounce and creating his own shot for himself and others, while also putting pressure on defenses with his off-ball movement. Davis is a tough-nosed defender and rebounder with 7.5 RPG. His draft stock has skyrocketed, and he’s poised to be a top-10 pick come June.

Keegan Murray: Iowa, Forward

The nation’s leading scorer at 23.9 PPG, Murray is shooting a scorching 59.7% from field. After the departure of superstar Luka Garza and others, Murray has emerged as the No. 1 scorer for the Hawkeyes. He’s a two-way stud who’s pitching in 2.1 BPG and 1.5 SPG along with 8.1 RPG. Murray is a fluid athlete who can score in a variety of ways: on post ups, off the bounce and/or putting the ball on the floor. Murray has the makings of the lottery pick.

Tari Eason: LSU, Forward

The 6-foot-8, 216-pound forward seems to have made a wise decision by transferring from Cinncinati to LSU. His explosive athleticism, gaudy physical tools and defensive versatility were always there, but as his offense has caught up, Eason has transformed in a mid-to-late first round draft pick. Eason is leading LSU in scoring — despite coming off the bench — with 15.4 PPG and 7.0 RPG in 23.5 minutes a game.

Guys Who Could’ve Left in 2021

Jaden Ivey: Purdue, Guard

Ivey could’ve bolted to the NBA last year, likely as a late first rounder. Instead, he returned and sharpened his game, specifically his jumpshot. Ivey has developed into a dangerous 3-point shooter, hitting at a 43.6% clip (25.8% last year) on 4.9 attempts. With his ability to attack the rim, Ivey is averaging 16.3 PPG on 50.0% shooting. Ivey is a high-quality athlete and a hounding defender who’s primed to be a top-5 pick and the top guard in this class.

Bennedict Mathurin: Arizona, Guard

Like Ivey, Mathurin could have bounced and landed as a late first rounder, but he came back improved his overall game. Mathurin has NBA size with his 6-6, 210-pound frame. But beyond that, his athleticism and shot creating ability at all three levels makes him a dynamic player. He’s averaging 18.0 points and 6.3 rebounds on 50.0% shooting. Mathurin has built himself into a surefire lottery pick with top-10 upside.

Mark Williams: Duke, Center

The Duke big man’s offensive game is still raw, but his physical tools, athleticism and strength are enticing. The 7-0, 243-pound Williams is a rim runner who mostly scores on dump offs and putbacks, but he runs the floor well and is a defensive stalwart down low. In just 20.4 MPG, Williams is tallying 9.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 3.4 BPG. Williams could have been a late first/early second-round pick last year, but that draft stock looks to be on the rise.

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